Francesca Martinez @ The Tuxedo Cat – Attic
6:00pm, Fri 26 Feb 2010
Francesca’s show was the only thing on The Shortlist that I could squeeze in comfortably before the pivotal (in the planning stakes, anyway) show of this evening. And, walking into The Attic to see this show, I still had no idea who Francesca Martinez was. I choose not to watch anything with Ricky Gervais in it, haven’t checked out Grange Hill in around 25 years, and the blurb in The Guide was clearly enough to shortlist the show, but I didn’t pick up anything different from it.
So I was a bit surprised when Francesca was helped onto the stage, and even more surprised when she introduced herself by saying she had cerebral palsy (or “CP”, as she rarely calls it). Of course, she has to address it; but the great thing about Francesca is that she is innately funny, and leverages the condition to her advantage.
A lot of her laughs come at the expense of herself and her actions, but there’s a bit of social commentary in there too as she tells us how she’s been treated throughout her life – all the way from school (her interactions with other students & teachers), through to her professional life. She also takes us on a bloody funny Valentine’s Day date – speaking italian, eating spaghetti – and even hints at her performance in the bedroom…
Francesca tells us she doesn’t like to refer herself as having cerebral palsy; just that she’s “wobbly”. And that light-hearted, jovial approach to her condition shines through a lot of her work (except for her contention that all babies are c*#ts, of course); but there’s a more serious undercurrent there, too. She makes a few jokes around the idea that “words don’t matter”, and then mentions how people’s reactions change when they meet her for the first time after communicating for ages via e-mail. I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in that, but it’s still a little bit sad, really. But that sadness only comes now, through reflection; in the actual performance, with Francesca “wobbling” on stage, taking the piss out of herself (“no, I’m not drunk”), you’re doing little else but laughing.